The Sunday School Christmas Program on January 8th was
a big hit! We were so glad to put on our play after
Christmas. It gave us some time to soak up that Christmas
spirit for a little bit longer. This year we spent a lot of time
talking about the Christmas story and remembering that
Jesus is the reason for celebrating this wonderful time of
year. The kids had so much fun getting ready for the play and practicing the Christmas songs. Their favorite was Go! Tell it on the Mountain. It is always a blessing to see the Christmas story played out by the kids. Thank you so much to all the kids that participated and thank you to the parents for being so flexible! We can’t wait to perform for everyone again next year!
On January 20th we celebrated our country’s peaceful change of power. And whether you agree with the outcome or not, you must admit that this part of our democracy is honorable and worth keeping. There was no violent take over, no forcing in or out of office, and we were allowed the opportunity to write our choices on ballots in the privacy of a public cubical or our own home.
Yet, this election showed us how difficult it can be to find unity when we come from very different life experiences and stories. Still it is important to continue to value the voice of the vote and the right to be heard through elections and collective decision-making. And for me, it was a great experience to once again darken in the tiny ovals of my choices and hand in my ballot to be counted.
Two days after our new president took office we met as a congregation during our annual meeting to vote once again and make important decisions for our church in 2017. While I was compiling the annual report and reading the accomplishments we’ve achieved together this past year, I was astounded by exactly how many things we really did. Our church community and neighborhood is as diverse as our country and together we worked to serve and feed those in need. Together, we worked to create and build a new daycare for our community’s children. Together, we ran multiple ministry programs and provided a multitude of acts of service for hundreds and hundreds of individuals and families.
During last year’s annual meeting, we voted on bold decisions to continue to build and serve in our community, and look at the outcomes our faith provided us all! This year we voted again and took the first steps in new hope for our church in the New Year.
Relative to many churches we may be tiny, but we are truly mighty in our efforts. “Pride goeth before a fall”, so our success in 2016 is not about our own works, but in God’s ability to use our church to do great things when we follow God’s lead. We gave God the glory in all our accomplishments, and we trusted in God’s ability to provide. We remained faithful and open. And, we must do that again.
So, for those who are struggling as to what our country might be facing at the change of leadership, remember: God has this. And for those who are confident with the outcome, remember: God has this, too. Either way, the truth is truth. God has our country, just like God had our church this past year during its time of many transitions, and God will again in 2017. Our task now is to continue to work together to serve in our church, community and country. And, we must continue to work together, despite our differing life experiences and stories, to be true disciples of Christ’s love in our service, following God’s leadership and giving glory to our one and true King and Lord of all.
On Wednesday night, January 4th, our community was treated to an extra-special gastronomical delight with a smorgasbord of soul food favorites! Renita Watkins, the brilliant chef, is our head Wednesday night cook, and also works on our Monday and Friday food distributions. She is a blessing to the food ministry at Gethsemane and The Camden Promise. Renita called the meal The First Annual Roxi Mork Soul Food Dinner, honoring the memory of our beloved friend and fellow disciple of Christ in a very special way – and we are sure Roxi would approve. Thank you Renita for your culinary gifts and generosity. We look forward to next year’s soul food feast!
"We have born our bur-dens in the heat of the day, but we know the Lord has made a way. We've come a long way, Lord, a migh-ty long way." - African-American Spiritual
From Pastor Jeff:
It has been over a year since our last annual meeting and the day when our congregation made a bold decision. The loss of the old New Horizons Daycare meant the loss of over $100,000 a year in our annual budget. We knew we would have to invest with resources that we didn not currently have in order to stay afloat. The decision was daunting and the future unclear. But instead of becoming paralyzed by fear, we stepped out in faith and trust. We voted to venture into the unknown, somehow create our own daycare, and invest even more deeply in our community called the Gethsemane parish.
And the Lord found a way. We were approved for a building loan from the ELCA Mission Investment Fund. With the help of mission partners and individual donors, we raised over $110,000 in revenue support in 2016 to cover our budget and leave us financially in the black. Through creative vision, faithful prayer, and a multitude of volunteer hours, our daycare, names Camden Kids, opened its doors in September 2016. After only four months of business, Camden Kids now has 24 children enrolled, a wonderful staff, a quality faith-based program, and a great director in Carrie Asanji If we continue along this trajectory, we will reach our target enrollment of 60 kids before the close of 2017 and once again have a stable revenue stream to support the ministry here at Gethsemane from 2018 and beyond. Not only are we grateful for the renewed financial security, but for the ability to once again minister to our parish's children.
Our community footprint deepened considerably this year in other ways. Gethsemane, along with NuWay Missionary Baptist and Living Word, gave away over 2000 toys to 480 families in December. Our partnerships with Second Harvest Heartland, The MN Food Group, The Camden Promise, and sister churches now support food distributions four days a week and community meals twice a week. We gave out over 30,000 pounds of food and made over 600 meals in December alone! Our Thanksgiving meal was again huge and a well-attended event. Our youth served the community across our nation on their "Random Acts of Kindness" Mission Trip to Florida, handing out cold bottles of water and blessings to people at rest stops along the way.
In November, our dear friend and my colleague Roxi Mork died unexpectedly of a rare and fatal illness. We are still grieving her loss in our lives as wife, mom, fiend, youth director, and in the myriad of hats she wore in our congregation. While we consign her to the grace and love of God, her presence seems to linger here in the huge influx of community members stepping up to use their gifts in service. I also find myself, in moments of doubt, hearing Roxi say to me what she often said, "God has got this."
Though we have borne our burdens during this time of uncertainty at Gethsemane, God still is finding a way with his "church on the corner" and our community. From a dire situation, we were called to look outside of the box, to adapt and try new things in order to expand our boundaries and fully embrace God's people. We ask God to continue to stir in us the desire to serve, to follow God's lead, and to use each of our unique gifts within our church and community. We thank God for weathering the storm with us in 2016 and honing our discipleship skills as we look forward to the year ahead with hope and new purpose.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Everyday they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
The church council acted in an amazing way in May of last year. Gathered together in the yourh, thinking about all the positive changes in the past few years and seeing the influx of many new people coming into the church, we asked out loud, is the Lord adding to our number daily those who are being saved? How do we open ourselves to receiving those whom God is adding to our number?
We have seen great numbers of people coming into Gethsemane looking for food, meals, help with children and employment. We have watched with wonder how someone coming into the church looking for help turns into a volunteer who helps others. Neighbors are getting to know neighbors. We are beginning to recognize the children on our blocks and behold with great joy how successful they are in bringing their parents in tow. And now Gethsemane is beginning to be known as THAT church. Or in the words of a neighbor, "The big footprint for a little church church."
And as people who came to us asking for food now ask us to be fed on the word of God, we find ourselves as a congregation in the exciting position of walking more intimately with our community in the formation of a relationship between God's people and the God who loves us so in Jesus Christ. Beyond loaves of bread and bags of groceries, we now have an opportunity to engage with our neighbors in an even more meaningful way. We have an opportunity to talk with our community about God who loves us more than we can imagine, gives us more than we need, and awakens us to a richness of life beyond our awareness.
We are now a year into our 3 to 100 campaign, an initiative that boldly claims that God is bringing people not only for food and help, but also to become disciples. The council leadership believes that in three years we can grow our worshiping community to an average weekly attendance of 100! And if the past few weeks have been any indication, we are moving boldly toward that number.
This initiative will require the efforts of all our current disciples working together to reshape our worship life and community. Now we will want to add more Bible studies and small groups. Build our music and worship leadership. And we continue to commit to being more intentionally hospitable, welcoming, and nurturing to those whom God is bringing us to participate in the life of God's mission on our blocks.
All while praying for God's providence and generosity in keeping our doors open...
Grace and peace to you and happy New Year! 2014 was quite a year, filled with changes and things to celebrate. From our block party, community meals, bazaar and The Camden Promise to our children's program, growing Sunday school and confirmation classes and the incredible leadership of our youth program, it is clear that Gethsemane is moving strongly in the direction of reclaiming its place as a neighborhood and intergenerational church. Praise God for the way we are moving together in ministry and in relationship.
As I write you this year I am struck by three things:
Our congregation is growing and changing. Looking at the pews on any given Sunday it is easy to see how our congregation is changing. We look more diverse culturally and ethnically. As a result we are singing different songs, talking differently with one another, worshiping with an eye for hospitality. Our tables for coffee fellowship after the service have a different configuration of people. Some of us have even changed where we sit in the pews of the church! This has not always been easy for us because each of us comes from our own context where we like our own things done our own way. But 2014 will go down for me as the year where I heard our congregation saying that we could change how we do things for the sake of the people God is bringing us and still remain true to ourselves as disciples of Jesus.
Our neighborhood and church partnerships are developing. 2014 will be remembered by me as the year that I joined the Lind Bohannon Neighborhood Association. We now have a direct link to the decision-makers in our neighborhood and the ability to shape the policies for the community in which our church resides. Our partnership with Nu-way Missionary Baptist Church has moved well beyond pleasantries to doing hard work together in ministry and in mission. The Rev. Willie Macafee and his wife, Joan, have become dear friends and colleagues and I treasure our association and the work we are able to do together for the sake of God's world. I am grateful, as well, for Christ Presbyterian Church, Living Word, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, as well as, our own Minneapolis Synod office for the financial support and collegiality we have received. And on behalf of our entire congregation let me extend a hand of thanks to our bishop, and her tireless staff for their work in providing over $18,000 in mission support for Gethsemane in 2015!
The third thing that strikes me is that it is time to focus on discipleship and education. We have decided together to work to grow our congregation to over 100 in worship over the next three years. But now, as these people begin to trickle into our community life, the need for religious education and spiritual leadership has become more and more apparent. My hope in 2015 is to offer more Bible studies, small groups, retreats and other opportunities for spiritual growth and development.
Additionally, it is time for us as a congregation to take seriously our own leadership development. As new people come into the life of our congregation, we must own the responsibility to train, groom and support them as potential leaders. This responsibility falls to all of us....especially to those that have held multiple positions of leadership throughout the years.
In closing, let me say a special thanks to my colleagues in ministry, Roxi Mork, Pat Stiegler and John Boyd. Quite simply, our church would not be functioning today without their tireless support, energy and enthusiasm. May God bless them and all of us as we seek to serve the risen Lord in the New Year! Amen
Community in spades...
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2 42-47
What an amazing party we had last Wednesday! A pig and a goat. Ribs and corn. Hamburgers and cake. And of course, cornbread and greens! Food enough for an army and the mountain of volunteers who served it up.
And boy did we have an army! 500+ by anyone's reckoning. Neighbors from across the street and the blocks around our church. People whom we have gotten to know over the past few years.
Folks who were strangers but now have become our friends.
We shared everything with our neighbors, from the food to the company, the bouncy castle to the bags of produce. We broke bread together and ate together at the tables. We watched our children play basketball and smiled at how much they have grown this past year. Some of us even broke out our moves to some of the best blues and back-in-the-day music buffet!
I was struck by three things on this wonderful evening and gathering. The first was that folks who had been visiting neighbors at last year's block party had become volunteers and leaders at it this year. What a treat and a blessing to see so many new faces engaging our community from within, serving up food and smiles. It made perfect sense for these neighbors to connect in a natural way in service with the community that grounds and identifies us!
The second thing was to hear from our neighbors what a blessing the church had become for them. A spiritual home. A community of neighbors. A gathering of friends. A welcoming and safe space. An oasis of peace in the wasteland of violence in North Minneapolis this summer.
The third thing was a sense of awe. Awe at how amazing God is. Awe at how God grows community. Awe at how simple and natural connections between God's people produce leadership, vision and service. Awe at the amazing giftedness and assets of our growing family of neighbors. And awe at witnessing joy in the hearts of all who felt called to serve, lead and walk along side this outpouring of God's spirit and love.
Praise God for this community in spades!
"Tired Of Runnin’ ”
I'm sittin' on my porch watching the law
As they ride past in their patrol cars
So tell me why I feel like the enemy
They're supposed to be here protectin' me
I might have went too far
Helpin' the contribute to makin' their job hard
Servin' fiends like these people ain't no enemy
I can't believe I'm out here killin' my community
If you knew how far I came
From where I am and where I used to be
Don't want it
You can tell by the look of me
This gangsta life ain't no longer in me
As I write you today, violent crime is up over 4 percent citywide this year with the highest concentration of violent and property crimes in North Minneapolis. Aggravated assaults in our precinct are up over 13%. Shooting calls are up over 36% and officers have already seized 258 guns so far this year, up 35%.
Mere blocks from the church our neighbors are being shot and killed in senseless acts of violence. A bloody Fourth of July weekend saw two neighbors shot dead and three others wounded. Later the following week three women just down the street from us on 35th and Dupont were ambushed and shot multiple times.
People are picking fights on buses and settling them with guns. People are racing their cars through our streets shooting at each other through the windows. Our own church kids are now afraid to go to the park down the road because of the new police cameras being set up to monitor gun violence.
Our city council president and fourth precinct rep is tired of "our neighborhood being overrun by thugs with guns" and presses the courts to send these "thugs" to our overcrowded jails for a maximum sentence. Our Mayor is calling for an end to the city's spike in violence and presses the police for more officers and overtime though no one is quite sure how to pay for that. Our own police chief is walking the beat on our blocks herself but openly acknowledges that "we can't arrest our way out of this problem." We all agree that everyone has a right to feel safe in our neighborhood and in our homes and that we must do what we can to stop the violence. But then we fence in and pit bull our yards, slam our doors and shake our fists at our neighbors in a tired and impotent rage through our front porch windows......
Are we tired of the running? Tired of the shooting? Tired of being afraid of our own neighbors? Are we tired of feeling hopeless, embittered and disempowered? Excellent.....
It is time for a reality check. We create the community we wish to be. This is our neighborhood, these are our blocks. This is our church and we have been called to serve this neighborhood for more than 120 years. If we will not create the community we wish to see here, no amount of police officers, courts or politicians will.
More, we must own that we have created the community we have. We can blame economic realities, slum lords and Chicago gangland transplants for the urban blight we are suffering. We can hold our elected leaders feet to the fire and force them to exhaust our financial resources holding those whom we deem undesirable at bay. We can even form vigilante neighborhood groups to chase away the riffraff ourselves. But no amount of blame or accountability can hide the fact that being tired of the running is the biggest part of the problem in growing community. We have let our neighborhood deteriorate by our indifference, self-interest and self-imposed helplessness.
Even more, to create the community we wish to be, we must change our behaviors that are in conflict with that community. Anger and frustration can be destructive to building community when it becomes fuel to feed the sicknesses of dependency, helplessness and entitlement. But anger and frustration are wonderful tools for change as long these emotions push us in the direction of re-engagement, reconnection and relationship.
So eat a hot dog on Wednesday night at our neighborhood BBQ with 130 of our neighbors and get to know some of them. Come to our Awesome Summer Kids program during the week and teach one of the 30 neighborhood children about what is right and wrong. Better yet, go to the park with them so they are not afraid to play next to the cop cams. Show up on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday and have a cup of joe with the 60+ families at or below poverty level that are coming to receive groceries. Talk to them about what they could do with the $400-$600 in real dollars they now don't have to spend to feed their families.
Even better, invite our community to sit and listen and learn from the greatest community activist of all. Because being a disciple of Jesus means being in community, building hope, serving in love and never, ever having to feel tired of the runnin....
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ greetings to this year’s Annual Meeting. We have
much to celebrate this year, from growth in membership to the development of stronger
kids programs. From a bigger food shelf that services more clientele to a neighborhood
ministry with the big block party and food distribution lines.
This year marked another year of relationship with Nu Way Missionary Baptist Church
under the leadership of the Rev. Willie MacAfee. We are doing more things together now
from sharing worship services to teaching Bible studies. Nu Way’s chicken distribution has
also done much to engender hope in our neighborhood well of feeding people.
This year also marks the time where we finished renovating the church sanctuary. We now
have a beautiful red oak floor, refurbished church pews, Power Point screen and the new
Baptismal Font and The Lord’s Supper table – just in time for our church anniversary. And
of course this year will be the one we remember as the year of the new church roof! Thank
you to all of the generous donors who gave much to tend to keep the elements out. Thank
you, as well, to the Rev. Willie McAfee for being the general contractor to get the roof done.
What a blessing it has been to attend to some of the deferred maintenance in our building!
2013 will also be the year that we remember how we expanded our food services to the
neighborhood. We now have breakfast served every Sunday plus a bag of groceries with it
twice a month. We now have community meals every Wednesday evening where people
can come with their families, eat a meal, go to a Bible study and leave with a bag of
food. The remarkable thing that is happening with these expanded services is that the
people who are coming to use them are sticking around. They are volunteering to help run
and support each of these programs; and they are joining our church! Praise God for the
way the Spirit moves through all of our lives.
As I look to 2014, I am mindful of how the Spirit will move through the life of our
congregation. The direction that I feel called to this year is to lead us is in Discipleship.
Using the metaphor of “feeding people”, how is it that we can ‘feed’ the people that God is
bringing to us? Beyond bread, milk, and eggs, how is it that we will feed those whom God
is bringing to us on the Word? Our strategy will be straight forward. Using Hospitality as our
working metaphor, we will continue to invite people to The Table, to small groups, to bible
studies, to fellowship, trusting that God will feed them through us, as much as, we will be
fed through those whom God is bringing. This will be an exciting year in God’s
On a final note, thanks to all those who serve in our congregation. From the circles to the
Bible studies to the church council, from the drivers to the food shelf volunteers to the
GLCW and of course the amazing paid staff at Gethsemane, it is a remarkable thing to see
how a small community continues to do so much for the sake of Jesus in our neighborhood.
May God continue to bless and keep us as we walk as His disciples.
Pr. Jeff Nehrbass
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. It is the nature of Salt and Light to be Transforming. “Salt speaks of inward character that influences a decaying world; light speaks of the outward testimony of good works that points to God.” Warren Wiersbe
40 transformational qualities of Salt
5. Melts Ice
6. Provides Traction
7. Works Quietly
9. Lingering Influence
10. Seasons in Many Ways
11. Creates Thirst
12. Provokes Interest
13. Distinguishes Identity
14. Adds Values
15. Holds Water
16. Irritates When Necessary
18. Covenant of Relationship (Numb 18:19)
21. Influences in many ways
22. Useful in numerous products
23. Inexpensive but valuable
24. Necessary for life
25. Synergistic with seasoning
26. Easily shows impurities
27. Use it or lose its effects
28. Available and Understandable
30. Easy to procure
31. Universally Available
33. Works in all temperatures
34. Shows no bias
35. Stimulates hunger
36. Basic identity of believers
37. Impact not always understood
38. Historically enriched
39. Created by God
40. Inherent and done without effort
40 transformational qualities of light
6. Defeats the darkness
7. Reflects and Brightens
8. Shines fully and Freely
9. Chases the Shadows and Gloom
10. Provides Pathways and Guides
11. Stimulates and Motivates
13. Provokes Action
14. Irritates Those in Darkness
15. Confirms Truth
16. Exposes Sin and Sickness
17. Warms and Assures of Safety
18. Displays truth and error
19. Warns of Danger
20. Provides Safety
21. Prevents Injury
22. Provides Vision
23. Gives Essential Vitamins
25. Adds Renown
26. Facilitates Progress
27. Gives Life As Photosynthesis
28. Cheers the Downtrodden
29. Prevents Catastrophe
32. Chases Away Evil
34. Advertises and Gives Visibility
35. Adds Credibility
39. Reflects What is Missing
40. Makes Things Knowable
41. Beams to the Most Remote Areas
Salt and Light Transforms All That They Touch. Salt changes a hunk of meat. Light alters the ambiance of a restaurant dining room. Salt makes water into a healing elixir and light makes a glass vase into a brilliant crystal. This is all accomplished by the nature of the salt. It is the way of light. The transformation is not so much a matter of what the salt or light does. Transformation of this kind happens because of the nature of salt and light. It is a matter of being – not doing....Let us be the transforming agent on our block and in this world for Jesus' sake.